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next week's column: Hope Spams Eternal


Have you ever gone through your spam message box for fun?

Wait, just in case some of you don’t have the internet (seriously, some people don’t), let me explain what spam is. Someone, back about five minutes after Al Gore invented the internet and discovered it causes global warming, realized they could sell stuff by e-mail. What they did was gather every e-mail address they could get their hands on, and send an advertisement to all of them.

It cost little money to send the mass e-mails, so if just one moron out of a thousand actually answers them and buys something, the spammer makes a profit. Brazil leads the way as the country where the most spam originates, at 7.7 billion spam messages per year. (But good old America is close behind.)

Old timers know Spam is actually a meat product. Didn’t you youngsters ever wonder? But in 1970 there was a sketch on the show “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”, in which a waiter is reciting a menu, only to be drowned out by a chorus of Vikings singing a song with the following lyrics: “Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam …”

They were spamming the dialogue, you see.

I’m not making this up.

The result is a huge amount of time and money being used to block and deal with spammers, who by the way should all be shot. E-mail systems catch a lot of spam and put it into a spam box, where you can check to make sure it didn’t collect legitimate e-mail. (It sometimes does.) Ever since I sent an e-mail query trying to sell a novel, I’ve been impulsively checking my spam box every ten minutes or so, terrified that the publisher’s reply somehow ended up in there.

That’s what got me looking at the spam e-mail I’ve been getting. Really legitimate appearing stuff, from honest, believable sounding accounts such as Baldini Joe Loans, Viagra© Brand Store, American Ex-Debt, Winning Trade, Become a Teacher, Ministry Finance Office (they want to send me money!), Congratulations, and of course my favorite, Federal Bureau of Investigations.

Viagra is being sent out in spam so often that most spam filters automatically catch it. As a result, spammers are reduced to messing with the spelling: V.i.a.g.r.a, V-i-a-g-r-a, Vi A Gra, and so on.

The “from” category is one place to tell where you might be looking at a spammer. In addition to the ones I’ve mentioned, I’ve gotten mail from 3_easy_steps, Extend_your_warranty, _approval, and of course single_online. The extra little non-letter characters will get the spam past filters, on occasion. Still, I can tell you at a glance that none of these people are on my contact list.

Then there’s the subject line, and that’s where the fun really begins. I just don’t understand why people still click on these things. Sure, once in awhile they manage to fool everyone, but most of them are so obvious as to be ridiculous. Should we care if somebody else gets suckered? Well, yes: If nobody at all bought these scams, the spammers wouldn’t make a profit and would stop spamming the rest of us.

Let’s take a look at some of the subject lines; you tell me if I should click on them, just in case:

“Based on the state are you paying too much?” Any e-mail that asks me if I’m paying too much is probably bogus.

“If you die, love continues. Protect your loved ones.” Okay, that sounds good, and it’s from Life Insurance Alert. Um, no – I didn’t ask for quotes, thank you.

“Lost_your_job_and_need_healthcare?” Well, no. And even if I had, the underlining instead of spacing is a dead give away.

“Claim your FREE blood-glucose-monitor!” First, I don’t need a blood-glucose-monitor. Second, nobody gives nothin’ for free. Third, ALL caps and exclamation points! are signs of either spammers or bad fanfiction.

“Dear Friend,”

No. I am not your friend.

“Your cat can give itself a pedicure.” I don’t have a cat … and if I did, it wouldn’t have opposable thumbs.

“Mew500, Canadian pill advisers.” Um, okay. So they don’t sell me pills – just advise me?

“Save 85% on printer ink/toner.” I don’t understand why the ink spam is so popular, nor am I sure I want to.

“I am a private loan lender.” I am a disgruntled internet user.

“Dell laptop for you…free.” Autographed by Bill Gates, no doubt.

“60 Minutes report confirms weight loss and anti-aging claims.” Then why does Andy Rooney look like he belongs in Jurassic Park?

“Levitra professional in quality meds.” No, I am not buying my medications from someone whose e-mail address indicates he’s holed up in his parents’ basement in Denmark.

“Match.com – See who’s online near you.” Make me.

“Urgent response needed.” If it’s that urgent, pick up the phone.

“User ozma914 save 80% now.” Well, they got my username right … but since this one is from VIAGRA© Brand Store, I’m thinking not so much.

“H0t Trades.” They put a zero in instead of an O, because the spam filters started catching “hot” back when most spam was for porn.

“Paзрешительная докумeнтация.” Anyone? Anyone at all?

“Bilingual in 10 days 100% guaranteed.” Oh? Will I be able to read the previous subject line, then?

“Celebrity Hair Secrets Revealed!” *Gasp!* I could learn celebrity hair secrets!

“You could make $24,000 in 24 hours.” However could I do that, Mr. Madoff?

“Dear Beloved in Christ.” How nice; I’m on a prayer list. Possibly they heard about the high blood pressure I got after going through my spam list.

“Loan Offer!!!!!” Just what I need, another monthly payment!!!!!

“(Spam) Message from Federal Bureau of Investigation.” Thanks for the warning.

“Chicks like em big.” Diamonds? Checking accounts?

“We have the fix for you men.” I’ve already been fixed, thankyouverymuch.

And, on a possibly related note:

“I heard you were small?”


And, finally: “Still waiting for your answers.”

This is the one that always gets me. Could it be the publisher? Better check! It never is.

But hope spams eternal.


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 11th, 2010 11:40 am (UTC)
I now own SEVERAL small Nigerian banks! :D
Mar. 11th, 2010 07:56 pm (UTC)
Oh, yeah? Well, *I've* won the U.K. lottery over a dozen times!
Mar. 11th, 2010 07:59 pm (UTC)
They'll let anyone take part these days.
Mar. 11th, 2010 08:00 pm (UTC)
Mar. 11th, 2010 11:42 am (UTC)
Oh Spam! When I first got LJ, all my notifications went into my spam box, so I had to check it, but not any more. I don't seem to be getting any now, but do get the bogus e-mails. The last one from someone claiming to be a friend who was visiting the UK and needed money to get home. Only 2,500 dollars. Yeah right!
Mar. 11th, 2010 07:58 pm (UTC)
Hey, I've heard from the same friend!

You probably are still getting a lot of spam, but your ISP is deleting it before it even gets to your spam box. I've heard that something like 80% of all e-mails sent to *everyone* is spam. I still prefer to look at it before it's deleted -- just in case -- but different providers handle it different ways.
Mar. 11th, 2010 12:32 pm (UTC)
For awhile there I was getting advertisements for both breast enlargement and penis enlargement every day. At the same time. I still wonder sometimes just what they thought I was....
Mar. 11th, 2010 07:59 pm (UTC)
Well, you'd have made a fortune in the adult entertainment industry ...
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 11th, 2010 08:00 pm (UTC)
The perfect reply message. :->
Mar. 11th, 2010 09:52 pm (UTC)

That is all...
Mar. 13th, 2010 03:17 am (UTC)
Mar. 12th, 2010 02:18 am (UTC)
The ones from "your bank" always annoy me. For one small instant I always wonder if it could really be my bank and then common sense reasserts itself.

But now, that guy who needs money in Nigeria....
Mar. 13th, 2010 03:18 am (UTC)
The Nigerian fella is clearly legit ...
Mar. 13th, 2010 01:04 pm (UTC)
See, that's what I thought. Too bad I don't have any money, that would be a great return.
Mar. 12th, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC)
Celebrity hair secrets? Ooh, I want to learn the secrets of Jason Alexander and David Cross!
Mar. 12th, 2010 11:46 pm (UTC)
The Jason Alexander from Seinfeld or the one that Paris Hilton (or maybe Britney Spears?) was engaged to?
Mar. 13th, 2010 03:20 am (UTC)
I wonder what kind of hair secrets Jason Alexander could possibly have? :-)
Mar. 14th, 2010 07:31 am (UTC)
The Seinfeld one. I'd forgotten about the other guy until now.
Mar. 21st, 2010 12:54 am (UTC)
I actually did have a pair of kittens with opposable thumbs once, a long time ago. I should've gotten them one of those pedicure thingies.
Mar. 21st, 2010 04:39 am (UTC)
But ... but ... opposable thumbs are all cats need to complete their takeover of the planet!
Mar. 21st, 2010 04:50 am (UTC)
We were extremely lucky. They weren't fully functional and had to be amputated when the cats hit puberty and got gawky--they couldn't stop tripping over them.
Mar. 21st, 2010 05:16 am (UTC)
Ouch. I'm sure it was necessary, but -- ow. Makes me wince, thinking about the amputation thing, especially since we had a human amputation case here in Albion just yesterday.
Mar. 21st, 2010 05:19 am (UTC)
Yeah. Wasn't funny at all.

See, the thing was, the toes were large enough to be useful because there were duplicates--polydactyly being pretty common in cats. In this case, it was the fifth toe that was duplicated, so they were offset into the right position.

But the multiple toes together were extremely large, and the muscles just weren't adequate for fine control. I was shocked to see them grabbing onto the cage wire with them (they were outside cats, put in a big cage temporarily while the lawn was being mowed), but soon enough they were just something to stumble over.
Mar. 21st, 2010 08:07 am (UTC)
Plus, all the other kitties made fun of them ....
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )

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